My goodness what a book.
I’m surprised that I finished Troublemaker, which isn’t to say it’s not a good book. My level of disinterest in celebrity memoirs is hard to even convey with words, but I knew absolutely nothing about Scientology. Pajiba covers Scientology drama with some regularity, and I make it my business to have at least a passing understanding of most of Pajiba’ content. Also, I only ever watched like to episodes of King of Queens, but for some reason Leah Remini really stood out to me, so I figured Troublemaker might be an okay primer.
And, well…yes and no. Remini covers most of her life from childhood on, roughly beginning with her mother’s conversion to Scientology and her own subsequent conversion as an adolescent. I hope you’ll forgive my language, because there is no mild way of saying that Scientology is unspeakably fucked up. I kind of expected to have some sympathetic feelings toward it – as someone with a good strong liberal arts background, there are few crimes greater than ethnocentrism, but wow are these people just evil. (The “church” leaders, not necessarily the practitioners.)
Of course it’s terrible to disavow modern psychiatric treatment to the detriment of many people. Obviously it’s horrible to force people to sever ties with their family if they are declared a “Supressive Person.” But for some reason the one that floored me was when Remini was housed in filthy, inhumane conditions with inadequate food for years as a teenager and occasionally stole food from the cafeteria. When she admitted this in the course of her “auditing” decades later, she was asked to repay her debt from the stolen food – and to “round up” to $40,000. And she did.
I think that as a book – not just as an exposé – it would have benefited from time. Remini is still so obviously raw and working through her feelings about Scientology and it shows in the last chapter, although I completely understand the sense of urgency to make this information public. My other gripe with the book is that at times she goes into great detail about her day at work and then skims right over the time spent “on course” or auditing afterwards without explaining much about what went on there, which I think it’s fair to say isn’t why most people are reading the book. Because of that, I’m not sure it’s really the ideal primer on Scientology, but it’s extremely eye-opening and heartbreaking that she seems to still be slightly defensive of aspects of the organization, even after the overwhelming corruption became too much too ignore.